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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest students celebrate with white lab coats, excel in new medical pathways program

Sep 20, 2021 04:15PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

This fall, University of Utah pre-dental student and Hillcrest High School graduate Angie Jeffery may have a leg up on her classmates, thanks to the high school’s medical pathway program.

Jeffery completed courses such as, intro to health sciences, biology, chemistry, physics, exercise sports medicine, medical anatomy, medical terminology and psychology to graduate in the program, capped by a white coat ceremony days before graduation. 

“It has given me a big step up,” she said. “The white coat ceremony is pretty cool. [The lab coat] has my name embroidered on it and I can wear it for med school. I’m pretty excited.”

Jeffery and about 25 others who completed the medical pathway program and passed a state test, received honor cords and medallions to wear at Hillcrest’s commencement. 

In addition to coursework, students also create a community project, a service that they originate to give a lasting impact.

Weeks before graduation, Jeffery was creating and distributing pamphlets for refugees, who may not be familiar with the American health system. She outlined common over-the-counter medicines and how to administer them for correct dosage, and worked with translators to translate it in several languages.

Jeffery, who represented Hillcrest participating at state and nationals in Health Occupation Student Association— Future Health Professionals, was advised by Matt Hart, who oversees the program, which just completed its second year.

“He’s so pumped about the program and has worked so hard to establish it and involve students. He’s right behind us every step, supporting us,” she said.

Hart said that the courses outlined for students help them determine if a career in the medical field is something that interests them and streamlines their classwork.

“They take several classes in core sciences and they have electives they can take, including things like CNA (certified nurse assistant) at CTEC, so when they leave school, they’ll have a pretty good foundation and skills that are marketable,” Hart said. “It’s pretty rigorous and aggressive. I’m excited because it’s multi-disciplinary. It’s a really exciting time to try and get students really motivated and thinking about these high-paying careers that have offered a lot of social mobility and stability that we need. We’re hoping to turn out the next generation of health science professionals.”

Hart started teaching at Hillcrest three years ago. During this tenure, he asked administrators if he could teach a health science course. After advertising, the classes filled.

“Now, our classes are capped,” he said, adding that he later introduced medical terminology, anatomy and intro to health science careers that introduce students to fields such as forensic science and epidemiology. “We have a lot of students who want to be EMTs, or firefighters. I’ve got students who want to be researchers and others want to teach. Many plan to go to medical school and nursing.”

He said two of his students have been motivated with the advancements of telemedicine, which with COVID-19 has become more commonplace.

“What they’ve designed is an otoscope that examines the tympanic membrane of the ear drum and ear canal. It attaches to a smartphone so parents insert it into the child’s ear and then the app would analyze it to see whether or not they have a middle ear infection. Then, that could be uploaded to a telehealth service and the practitioner could then do the exam from a distance,” Hart said.

Hart invites speakers – some who have connected over Zoom – to share with students about their experience and give them a first-hand look of their careers. Many speakers come to their HOSA meetings, which has about 45 active members, and interact with students. During the meetings, students also partake in hands-on learning, such as dissections, and prepare for competitions.

Junior Aryanna Hinckley participated in last spring’s HOSA competition as well as is in the medical pathways program.

In the HOSA competition, she read five medical-related books for the medical reading test at the state contest and teamed up with a partner to create a career poster display about the flight medic careers.

“I try to get them to compete and push themselves beyond the curriculum of the classroom,” Hart said. “What’s nice about HOSA is I can find things that the students have a particular interest in, and I can help them beyond what I get to teach in the class.”

Although Hinckley isn’t thinking about a career as a flight medic, she said she’s glad she researched it.

“It was a great experience and insight into health careers,” Hinckley said, adding that she has learned from guest speakers in the surgical tech and neonatologist fields. “I’ve gotten to learn from them, what they’re doing, and I’ve gained different insights and the overall experience [with HOSA], of becoming more than a team, especially doing group projects. The process of learning can help me with college and my health career and with a lot of the classes [in medical pathways], go in-depth with different career possibilities.”

Hinckley, who said she’s appreciated the support and direction from Hart and from science teacher Andie Arnold, is enrolled in medical terminology this year and hopes to enroll in sports medicine, which works well into her schedule as an international baccalaureate student.

Hinckley, who was planning to take many of these courses anyway for her dream to work in the medical field with children, said medical pathways is a bonus for her as she was able to enroll in intro to health sciences, and study something that applies more directly to her future, instead of a general health course.

She is looking forward to her white coat ceremony next year.

“It’s exciting,” Hinckley said. “It’s hard to get a white coat and this will be specialized for you, and it’s from Hillcrest, my high school.”